Maajid Nawaz takes apart a hijabi who claims she’s a feminist

Have a listen to Maajid Nawaz, on his radio show, dismembering a woman who calls in saying that she’s a feminist and wears a hijab. He bores in on her with a bunch of questions involving what God wants, what’s the punishment if you disobey God, is wearing the hijab a “choice,” and whether an imam’s words are the same as God’s words. Having not thought at all about this stuff, the woman can answer only, “That’s the way the religion is.”

Nawaz claims he’s a Muslim, but I wonder whether he goes to mosque, and what parts of Islamic doctrine does he accept. Does he go to the mosque? Does he think that Allah dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel? Does he believe that Muhammad made his “night flight” on the winged horse Buraq? I’d love to ask him these questions.  Sometimes I think he’s at best an agnostic, but can’t say he’s an apostate because of what would happen to him if he did. Regardless, this is one smart guy who is surely a force for the necessary modernization of Islam. And it’s a damn crime that the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled him an “anti-Muslim extremist.”


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    What is the old line that goes here. In a battle of wits she is unarmed. You do not want to argue with this guy.

  2. FH
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I think Maajid Nawaz claims to be Muslim for two reasons. First is the strategical aspect. When someone like this woman tells him “I’m a Muslim” as a way of asserting (unwarranted) authority in all things Islam, he wants to be able to say, yeah, so am I. The second is, he really is a Muslim, a secular, or perhaps cultural one. I doubt he believes in any of the supernatural claims that Islam makes, and his morality and ethics clearly are Western and liberal. e said himself that he doesn’t practice the faith (iirc). But he grew up in the religion, in an Islamic environment, he learned and knows much about the faith and I’m sure a lot about his view of himself and a lot about his character are still informed by that. Richard Dawkins recently called himself a secular Christian. I have no problem with that and neither do I think it’s wrong for Maajid to call himself a Muslim if he means it in that sense.

  3. rom
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about the Qur’an … but in the Christian tradition, I don’t believe Gabriel is an Archangel?

    And sadly I am using Billy Graham’s Angels as my reference here.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps this from clarify:

      Michael and Gabriel are recognized as archangels in Judaism, Islam and by most Christians. Protestants recognize Gabriel as an angel but consider Michael to be the only archangel. Raphael—mentioned in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit—is also recognized in the Catholic and Orthodox churches…The named archangels in Islam are Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrael. Jewish literature, such as the Book of Enoch, mentions Metatron as an archangel, called the “highest of the angels”, though the acceptance of this angel is not canonical in all branches of the faith.
      Some branches of the faiths mentioned have identified a group of seven Archangels, but the actual angels vary, depending on the source. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are always mentioned; the other archangels vary, but most commonly include Uriel, who is mentioned in 2 Esdras.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 24, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        It’s weird that we see names like Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel these days but no Metatron, the coolest of the angels and the best of the names!

        • KiwiInOz
          Posted September 24, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          And of course Metatron was the Voice of God in Good Omens.

          • Filippo
            Posted September 25, 2017 at 4:30 am | Permalink

            In the original Star Trek series there was a seemingly angel-like, androgynous being calling himself a Metron.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted September 24, 2017 at 10:07 pm | Permalink


        • Posted September 25, 2017 at 3:43 am | Permalink

          Sounds like a transformer to me.

        • Posted September 25, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Not to be confused with Megatron, of course. 😉

  4. Posted September 24, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink


    I’m glad Maajid is a Muslim.

  5. Mike
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I understand that Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel are considered the archangels. Or possibly teenage mutant ninja angels.

    • Ben Ricker
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink


  6. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Bravo to Maajid Nawaz! The foolish woman really needs to wear a big ole burka now to hide her shame.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Good on Maajid Nawaz. Excellent as usual. The idea that the hijab is a feminist statement is one that has always annoyed me, and it’s good to hear him pointing out the reasons why it’s wrong.

  8. Posted September 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The caller does not acquit herself well here, but I think it possible for a woman to wear the hijab and still be considered a feminist. Feminism has always been a relativistic thing. A married American woman in the 1950’s who works outside the home would be considered a feminist in their place and time, even though they were probably making compromizes in other aspects of their lives. So it is possible for a woman to wear the hijab and still be a feminist. One may wear the hijab because they really have to (the consequences of not conforming being outright dangerous), while being liberated and elevated alongside men in other ways such as working outside of the home.
    In the science classes I teach, there are many female Muslim students who wear a hijab plus make-up and blue-jeans and are working toward getting into med school. They speak to me directly (about evolution!), and so I am ok with considering them liberated and feminist.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Just one thing about that woman in the 50s out working. She was likely doing that because she needed to do it to eat and pay the bills. Not the same as wearing the head scarf.

      • Posted September 24, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        I think that is a bit too narrow, but I might have elaborated: there were women going to college and getting degrees and jobs in fields that were traditionally for men. They had to deal with a lot of flak, and they perservered.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted September 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. It is just that the comment reminded me of the 50s when most moms did stay at home because it was expected and also because it was economically available. That was a different time for sure.

    • Ben Ricker
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      The analogy to a 50s woman is not applicable. The issue is that the Hijab is worn, for whatever ostensible reason, because some male imams says it is as a translation of the Quran’s requirement for female modesty. IT is fruit from poisoned root. I agree that one would not immediately withdraw the “feminist” name from Muslim women who wear the Hijab, but the wearing of the Hijab is anti-feminist. And it is not some outlier: women can harbor all sorts of anti-feminist behaviors!

    • Gabrielle
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      I gather what you are trying to say is that someone can wear hijab, and at the same time be serious about their education and their career goals. I don’t think we can infer what their thoughts on feminism are from this.

      On the subject of married women in the 1950s who worked outside the home – I grew up in the 1960s on the East coast of the US, and very few married women worked. The few who did usually worked at a family business. From what I remember, it was ok for single women to work, though if they were over 25 or so, every one pitied them. It was ok for widowed women to work, especially if they had children to support, but they were also pitied somewhat.

      I do know of the case of two women, both chemists who got their degrees in the 1950s, who were married to chemists, and who worked at a large chemical company (my first employer). Both were laid off in 1959 because they were married; they were told that they really didn’t need to work anyway. I’m not certain that they thought of themselves as feminists who were blazing a trail for other women; I believe they simply wanted to work in their chosen field of chemistry.

    • Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      No, have to disagree. The hijab and feminism are about as compatible as the Catholic Church’s institutional sexism (e.g. no women priests) and feminism. You can have some highly educated and successful Catholic women that buy into this, but it does not remove the gross contradiction.

    • Posted September 25, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Or feminism (like almost everything) comes in degrees – and we can expect people to move at their own pace through the various degrees.

  9. Richard Sanderson
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    No surprises which dotard DEFENDED the SPLC’s decision to put Maajid on that list – yup, PZ Myers. He mumbled something about “the neocon stuff”, although what that “neocon stuff” is, is anybody’s guess.

    My theory is that PZ Myers is actually a bit too fond of ** W******* and his online troll network, who spend an obsessive amount of time querying the funding of Quilliam, and putting forth the same conspiracy theory guff that the far right say about Jewish funding, etc.

    • Ben Ricker
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      I do agree that some of PZ’s politics is abhorrent. I do like his Science stuff. His explanations of cancer was both extremely edifying and understandable.

    • somer
      Posted September 25, 2017 at 12:35 am | Permalink

      You mean to say Myers is in league with the mysterious Courtney Werleman??

  10. Posted September 24, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Her choice is fully packaged and until now (the phone call) where it has been challenged had no idea of choice and sadly still doesn’t.

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    I seem to recall Maajid Nawaz saying he didn’t believe in any of those literal things like Muhammad riding a horse to heaven, in an interview in Sam Harris’s podcast, but I could be misremembering. At any rate, it seems to me that his beliefs are more like United a Church Christians or Reform Jews, who reject a lot of the miraculous claims.

  12. Gabrielle
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve listened to the broadcast twice, and no where in the 5 minutes does the woman call herself a feminist who wears hijab, nor dies she mention feminism. We, in fact, cannot infer what she thinks of feminism at all from this broadcast. The relevant part starts at 3:47:

    Woman: This is the problem at the end of the day, it’s always men trying to choose what on earth a woman can wear.
    Nawaz: Ok wow, we’re going to get all feminist now are we, Fadima. Ok, let’s go down that line – name one mosque in this country that has a female imam.

    The rest of the conversation is about imams and mosques.

    • somer
      Posted September 24, 2017 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      but she’s implying that its female choice effectively “feminist” to wear hijab rather than religio-cultural indoctrination (the latter becomes obvious as her real motivator later when she admits that she believes its god’s law, and although men don’t have to wear any restrictive clothing or stay away from the gaze of women because that is not part of god’s law, god mandates that she is much more likely to go to hell if she doesnt wear it)

  13. Posted September 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this. We all have a lot on our plate trying ro be aware of our own part in the sad state of our world. I nearly missed your piece as I reacted against “taking her apart”, “dismembering”, “bores in”. Thought your “target” might be women, or feminism. Its good to be mindful of how our language is perceived. But thanks again.

  14. Robert
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    I believe Maajis is definitely not an agnostic or apostate. He believes in allah. I do think he doesnt believe in many miraculous things like winged horses. I believe what he says on face value, but I stumbled on a YouTube channel by Earthling Carl, who believes Maajid is an apologist for Islam. Maajid is therefore continually attacked by all sides. By left leaning atheists like me who wants him to stop believing in god. Muslims who doesnt want him to reform and ´liberalize´ islam and right wing brits who thinks he is a wolf in sheeps clothing. I agreed with Maajid in this particular clip and I tought he did a good job explaining what is wrong with Islam in Britain today.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I stumbled on that guy’s channel too. He’s an absolute scumbag, one of the many lowlife YTers who’ve capitalised on anti-Muslim animus and set up their own ludicrously skewed channels dedicated to smearing all Muslims, regardless of what they believe. Any instance of good-will or decency on the part of a Muslim is dismissed as ‘taqiya’, ie. Koranically-sanctioned lying-for-god.

  15. Mike
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Wonder if she’ll Phone again.?

  16. Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I can highly recommend his (short, very well written) autobiography, Radical.

    Please do buy and read it!

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